About two years ago, Kim Arndt, the Executive Director of One Heart Uganda, and I sat down to talk about a trip she was planning to Uganda and she shared stories from past trips. Kim talked about the energy, passion and excitement the students have for learning and education, Father Matthias’s amazing commitment to his community, and how her son Will completed a “passion project” during his last trip. Both Will and Ugandan children have a love of soccer, locally known as futbol, and he wanted to do something to give back to the children. Through donations, Will was able to buy soccer balls and various sporting equipment for the schools to use on campus. As I heard this story, I thought about my passions and before even thinking it through, I said that I wanted to build a well. I didn’t know what it would take or how much it would cost, but I put it out there and was committed to the project.
I am incredibly passionate about clean water. Whether it is enjoying a cold drink on a hot day, going fishing in a lake that isn’t polluted or scuba diving and seeing the beautiful wonders of the sea, clean water is something that I don’t take for granted. I started researching more about the water conditions throughout Central Africa and learned that the St. Andrew Uganda campus had only two water tanks that did not provide enough water through the seven-month drought season. Students had to walk over a half mile to reach the closest water source. Not only did this take time away from studies, dormitory chores and more importantly, being a kid and playing, but it was very hard work for water that was barely useable. It was dirty, had dying vegetation and animal feces floating in it and was dangerous. Tragically, months before our trip, a young boy drowned trying to fill his jerry can. Such a tragedy, when all he wanted was water. I knew in my heart that bringing clean water to the St. Andrew Uganda campus was something that I had to do. I didn’t know where the money would come from, and if I had to secure a loan to pay for it myself I would, but I knew that these children deserved an easy, reliable source for water.
Prior to the trip, I led a small fundraising campaign called “Get Well.” Through the generous donation of a St. Andrew parishioner and from my family and friends, enough funding was secured to start working with a company called “Living Water Technologies” to build a solar-powered well along with three reservoirs on campus and one for the villagers who live nearby. In a few short months since being completed, the well has made an incredible impact on so many lives. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to be involved with this experience.
During our trip, we had the privilege of attending Mass with the children and locals. Through my travels, I’ve attended some amazing Masses in Jerusalem, Rome and at St. Andrew; but the Mass I attended on Sunday, July 8th touched my heart in a way no other has. Fr. Francis led the Homily and spoke about the well. I didn’t understand a word he was saying since he spoke in the local language, but I saw the emotion on Fr. Matthias’s face and that of the parishioners as they listened. The building of the well was truly a miracle for this community. I was overcome with emotion and pride when I realized that this small project improved so many lives.
After Mass, Fr. Matthias led the congregation to the well for a blessing and prayer. I walked toward the end of the pack, taking a moment to gain my composure and take control of my happy tears. As I was walking, two little girls snuck up on me and each grabbed one of my hands. They both looked at me with their big, beautiful brown eyes and smiled. At that moment, I knew that this passion project was the right one and that I would never forget my experience and the impact that One Heart Uganda has on so many.